Author Topic: Drama of the inexplicable  (Read 350 times)

slowpogo

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Drama of the inexplicable
« on: January 21, 2017, 11:39:21 AM »
I've coined this term, 'drama of the inexplicable,' to help categorize a certain kind of movie or story, that involves inexplicable happenings and generates tension and atmosphere from withholding any clear explanation. Jeff Nichols' Take Shelter, or Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Last Wave might be examples, as is Don't Look Now. Perhaps Children of Men fits into this, a little more loosely, for its unexplained epidemic of infertility. HBO's The Leftovers and French series Les Revenants are also examples, in television. Perhaps Jacob's Ladder if you ignore the final title cards. I just watched a movie on Netflix called H. which fits in this category too.

These movies involve weird stuff that doesn't have an easily classifiable supernatural explanation, unlike other movies that are easily labeled: "ghosts and the afterlife" (The Sixth Sense), "telekinesis" (Carrie), "the Devil" (Angel Heart) and so on. Dramas of the inexplicable may thrill, may be horrific, but are not thrillers or horror movies exactly. The inexplicable happenings cause conflict but solving or resolving the conflict is not the point of the story, and not what ultimately happens -- these stories are ultimately more about people than the unexplained stuff, about how they react and cope with things (or can't cope with them).

Any other examples of this y'all can think of?

Jeff Schroeck

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Re: Drama of the inexplicable
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2017, 11:57:57 AM »
What about "3 Women", "Barton Fink", and/or "Stranger Than Fiction"?

slowpogo

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Re: Drama of the inexplicable
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2017, 12:12:25 PM »
What about "3 Women", "Barton Fink", and/or "Stranger Than Fiction"?

Barton Fink, certainly! It's been many years since I saw it but in my memory it fits.

Stranger Than Fiction, I don't think so, because as fantastical as it is, the mechanism at play is known to the audience and easily summarized (Will Ferrell's life is under the control of a writer).

I haven't seen 3 Women, but just from reading about it briefly, it may qualify, but I don't think this category includes things that are flat-out "avant-garde" filmmaking, where the filmmaking itself (not the story so much) is the source of weirdness. That was just my reaction to its Wikipedia page but I don't know, this may fit too.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2017, 12:14:03 PM by slowpogo »

oldkid

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Re: Drama of the inexplicable
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2017, 12:36:58 PM »
I like this category!

I don't have a movie in mind, but I'll post it when I remember them.
"It's not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster." Bansky

MartinTeller

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Re: Drama of the inexplicable
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2017, 04:39:59 PM »
It sounds like you're basically describing Magic Realism.

slowpogo

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Re: Drama of the inexplicable
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2017, 05:34:30 PM »
Not quite...I'm familiar with magical realism, a Latin American literary tradition that takes a lot of forms, often light-hearted, absurdist or comedic. Often it goes a lot farther than the circumstances of movies above; people turning into animals, or people who control the wind, etc. The Lobster would be a recent example that seems more like magical realism than a drama of the inexplicable.

I'm talking distinctly about not absurdist tales, but darker, more disturbing, existential contexts involving the inexplicable but grounded in more recognizable reality. Franz Kafka would be a more appropriate literary comparison but even that is a little too surreal, less grounded than the movies I describe above (which don't go so far as a person transforming into an animal).
« Last Edit: January 21, 2017, 06:43:14 PM by slowpogo »

slowpogo

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Re: Drama of the inexplicable
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2017, 06:44:26 PM »
I appreciate being challenged on this. I'm trying to fashion it into a blog post, and right now it's the sort of thing, like the famous saying about porn, "you know it when you see it" but it's hard to define. But it's coming into focus the more I think about it and defend it.

smirnoff

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Re: Drama of the inexplicable
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2017, 09:33:52 PM »
Sounds like Magnolia

oldkid

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Re: Drama of the inexplicable
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2017, 11:34:24 AM »
There ya go.
"It's not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster." Bansky

slowpogo

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Re: Drama of the inexplicable
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2017, 12:11:12 PM »
Right, I'd say this applies to Magnolia, in a slightly different (but still valid) way. The strange stuff is not driving the action, so much as providing a background commentary about the inexplicable nature of life in general. Though admittedly, again, it's been over 10 years since the last time I saw Magnolia (which is too long!).

Just realized, newly-crowned Golden Brick winner The Fits is also a pretty good match.